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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

What a Difference a Year Makes

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, November 21, 2013/Categories: photography, sustainability, environment

Recently, Riled Up reflected on a new technology that allowed anyone to: monitor forest conditions . NASA's Landsat satellite shows how such remote sensing can be put to good use observing deforestation with images similar to those used to produce the new interactive maps from the University of Maryland and Google.

  
Tropical Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon, 10-5-2012 to 10-5-2013  (credit: NASA)

Deforestation occurs in many ways: clearing for agricultural production, illegal logging for mahogany and other rare timbers, political corruption, and fires. In the satellite images, researchers saw what appeared to be cleared ground in the Peruvian Amazon that the previous year had been intact forest.

According to the remote sensing researcher, Clint Jenkins who has monitored deforestation in Peruvian Amazon since he was a gradate student at NC State University: “Landsat imagery is essential for environmental monitoring because it is free, easy to access, and quickly available after the satellite passes over an area. Satellites are the only way to monitor these areas because they are so large and so difficult to access.”

A new threat to the Amazon is clearing of land to plant oil palms. Oil seed production has been primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia, where vast tracts of tropical forests have now replaced the primary forest with mono-cultures of palms. With deforestation escalating in the Amazon for whatever reason, the impact on biodiversity and increases in released carbon will likely increase.

While the new interactive maps can expose the destruction in real-time, they can't stop it. Without changes in attitudes toward the value of tropical forests depleted and barren landscapes will continue being created.

WHB

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